Your Palate knows Best
By: George Balling
We sometimes hear from customers and readers that they “feel like they should like” this wine or that one but just don’t. In short, the most important thing to know about wine is what you like and what you don’t. What you don’t need is me or any other wine professional telling you that you should like something that you simply don’t. That is why over the years here at The Dinner Party we have never tried to convince anyone to like a wine. Our approach has always been to find the best wine for your palate and your budget.
We all have our favorites and we all have our “un-favorites” and the favorite category is where most of us are comfortable drinking on a regular basis. Part of the challenge though is palates and even budgets change over time. Each of us will go through times when we can afford to drink wine at a bit of a different price point. This is a great time to experiment with new wines trying a different winery that makes our favorite varietals that cost more.
The changing of palates is a bit more challenging. We hear from customers all the time that their old favorites just aren’t tasting as good and they wonder if the winery has changed hands or if the winemaker they liked so much has left, or are their tastes changing. All are possible. As wine professionals though we will know the factual answer to the first two possibilities of changing ownership or winemaker. This is the true knowledge we share with customers every day. It is also the easier of the options to solve, we can and do make recommendations about a wine to move to when your old standby just doesn’t taste as good.
When your palate does change though, and nearly every wine consumer goes through this multiple times in their wine consuming experience, this is when you may need to get a bit more adventurous to solve the puzzle. When we started our shop and our wine club 15 years ago, we made the decision to pick wines for our club that weren’t the same old thing. We have always felt that if we are just picking Chardonnay and Cabernet for our club members, we weren’t doing our job. Our goal has always been to introduce wine drinkers to things they wouldn’t reflexively buy, bottles that would help them experience the big wide world of wine that is at our doorstep. Not to try to convince anyone that they should like this or that but to give all of you the chance for your palate to decide. A wine club like this is a good start to help address your changing palate.
Another option to find your new favorites is to taste a lot of wine, different wine. When you are out to lunch or dinner stick to the by the glass list instead of ordering a bottle for the table. There are restaurants in our area like Vine & Olive and Stylus, to name two, that do a really great job of having wines by the glass that will give you a chance to experiment and find your new palate “sweet spot” when it is going through changes.
When you try wines by the glass or from a wine club like ours you shouldn’t expect to like everyone you try. Realistically you should be hoping, although it sounds odd, to find some you don’t like then you will know that a varietal, region or winemaking style doesn’t appeal to you. The goal is to find wines that appeal to your “new” palate and that will take some work.
A couple of more pointers, if you have liked bigger fuller bodied wines in the past, it is a better approach to move just a bit off those grapes. For instance, if Cabernet has been your favorite try a small adjustment like moving to Merlot or Syrah, as opposed to a radical shift like going super light in body along the lines of a Beaujolais. Another option is to try a Cabernet from Europe when you are looking for something lighter, again these small adjustments will result in a better outcome. Similarly, if you have been a fan of Pinot Noir but this lighter bodied varietal isn’t tasting quite as good and you are craving more robust wines, move gradually up the scale to a Grenache or Sangiovese as opposed to a full throttle Cabernet. The same is true of whites and the options for experimentation are endless.
Let your palate lead you to the best destination though. As wine professionals we are always here to help you with the knowledge and the options for your changing palate, but you know more about what wine you like and don’t like than we ever will. Your palate and what you like remain the most important.